The Journal of San Diego History
Summer 1984, Volume 30, Number 3
Thomas L. Scharf, Editor

Book Review

Raymond Starr, Book Review Editor

Boat and Shipbuilding in San Diego. San Diego: Cabrillo Historical Association, 1983. Bibliographies. Illustrations. 60 pages. $7.50. Reviewed by David G. Brierley, Curator of the San Diego Maritime Museum.

The annual Cabrillo Festival has become a special event for San Diegans each September. The presentation of papers and the subsequent publishing of them by The Cabrillo Historical Association provides useful documentation of many aspects of San Diego’s history.

The papers presented at the 1983 Cabrillo Festival Historic Seminar and published under the collective title, Boat and Shipbuilding in San Diego, rank high when compared to the previous ones, even though the title and papers constitute a paradox. The papers do not inform the reader about historic boat or shipbuilding as practiced in San Diego. One would assume that the title was chosen in advance and could not be changed at a later date to reflect the excellent papers that were included in this publication.

The first paper was outstanding. Carla Phillips’ research and presentation was such that both the casual and serious student of maritime history would benefit by reading “Spanish Ships and Shipbuilding in the Renaissance.” Her coverage of the evolution of shipbuilding and the physical process of building a wooden ship are ably influenced by her knowledge of Spanish economic and social history. The result is a well-rounded history which gives the reader an understanding of Spanish ships of the Renaissance on many interrelated levels. A small glossary of terms such as toneladas would have been helpful. More than just a step by step manual, this paper gives the reader a good feeling for the ships and the time period which together provided men such as Cabrillo with the many tools needed to build and utilize a Spanish ship.

The second paper, “Shio: Japanese Pioneers in San Diego’s Fishery,” by Donald Estes is an excellent chronological study of the Japanese influence on the fishing industry of San Diego. Their technology, persistence, and ability laid the groundwork for an industry which is essential to San Diego’s economy today. The Japanese influence was felt in 1899 with the arrival of two fishing boats with crews from Japan. Reports of good fishing grounds and a market in Japan for fish propelled the fledgling industry. Outside factors such as the need for fish as an alternative for meat for civilians during World War One continued to strengthen the Japanese involvement. They studied the sea, fish, and taught their technology of pole fishing for tuna to the Italians and Portuguese. Social discrimination in the 1930s and the Second World War were viewed as the main reasons for the eclipse of the Japanese and their presence in San Diego’s fishing industry.

The third paper, “The CALIFORNIAN Project,” is maritime history in the making. The building of the Revenue Cutter CALIFORNIAN at Spanish Landing on Harbor Island is a mixture of old and new technology following the steps used by generations of shipbuilders. The paper gives a good account of the Revenue Cutter and specifically the LAWRENCE built in 1848, after which the CALIFORNIAN is modeled. The building sequence is informative. No doubt many 19th century shipwrights would be amazed by the laminated frames and would probably be the first to use them if available earlier. The CALIFORNIAN has a noble objective in serving sea cadets as a sail training ship.